Canning Meat at Home

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This past weekend, when my daughter looked to me as we browsed the shelves of ammo at a local sporting store and wondered aloud about whether or not "city kids" get opening day of deer season off school, I couldn't help but be transported back to that same moment in my own youth.

I'm not sure I could pinpoint in my memory the exact day—or month or year, even—that I first realized opening day of deer season is not a school-cancelling holiday for the whole of our state's population. And I probably couldn't tell you where I was, but I can tell you for sure that the precise moment it happened was something of a personal revelation.

Growing up, putting meat in the freezer—and if you were lucky, a mount on the wall—was such a normal and important part of life in our community, it never occured to me that outside it, hunting would be more an anomaly than not.

Meat

Since then, of course, I've found a lot of things that are unique to our rural way of life, and I've become grateful for being able to raise my own kids around them. I've also come to realize however, that some of those things can be easily replicated regardless of location, and the generations-old practice of canning meat is certainly no exception.

While I certainly wouldn't tell you to pass up the opportunity to put a few jars of venison in your pantry should you have the chance (it's a scrumptious treat), just about any type of meat you can think of is cannable, and there's something to be said for having a quick meal on the shelves regardless of variety.

The process for canning all types of meat—regardless of whether you choose to raw or hot pack—is the same.

Raw Pack: Trim excess fat, divide meat into pieces that will easily fit in your desired jars, pack meat into jars (leaving one generous inch of headspace), and apply lids to fingertip tight.

Hot Pack: Trim excess fat, divide meat into pieces that will easily fit in your desired jars, cook meat to at least rare by either browning or roasting, pack meat into jars (leaving one generous inch of headspace), cover with hot water, broth, or tomato juice, and apply lids to fingertip tight.

Only the processing times vary:

  • Roast Beef, Lamb, Mutton, Pork, Veal, Venison, and Boneless Poultry should be processed at 10 pounds pressure*, 75 minutes for pints and 90 for quarts.
  • Bone-In Poultry can be processed at the same 10 pounds of pressure*, but for only 65 minutes for pint jars and 75 for quarts.

Of course, each method has its pros and cons. Raw pack is considerably faster than hot pack, but can sometimes result in only part of the meat being covered in juice. If you expect to eat through your canned meat within a few months this may not be an issue, but overtime the meat may discolor a bit where it's not submerged. It remains perfectly safe to eat, but discoloration can be unappetizing to some. Hot pack also boasts the benefit of being able to fit more meat in each jar. And with the ever-increasing price of lids that alone can be a persuasive pro.

Whatever you decide, until next month, Happy Canning!

*Pressure quoted is up to 1,001 feet above sea level.  For more information check out our guide to Home Preservation Safety and our Guide to Home Canning Tools & Equipment for additional resources.

Diana Prichard authors Righteous Bacon and is the owner of the small farm Olive Hill.

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